I could not pass her up; she was the Saddest Doorman In The World. I approached her from behind as I walked down Market toward Third. She was standing there holding the door open, but no one was entering or exiting. Her long, Four Seasons gatekeepers' coat, which looked like something a veterinary doctor would wear while tending to prized thoroughbred horses, hung on her like a smock. Black pants and black loafers propped two knock-knees. As I neared her, she glanced at me and transferred her misery for a second. She was middle aged, with a pockmarked face.
It was one of those seconds where you get the entire story: She was glad to have a job, life is hard; Jesus Christo, I'm bored; and something else as our eyes met that I am sure goes through her head for her entire shift: Is this someone I need to smile at or are they just walking by? I see that all the time across the street at the Ritz. I walk past there several times a week, and the doormen light up at the Right People, which is fine because if you had to be that excited to see every single person who walked by, you would've either killed yourself by now or gotten a different job holding a clipboard and accosting people on the street for a large nonprofit.
I could tell she was not amused by my pity, so I did some quick thinking and swiveled on my foot toward the door. "This the Four Seasons?" I said, as if the reason I had been absorbed in her was because I was confused about my location. She smiled and nodded and waved me in. She did have a nice smile.
My favorite luxury hotels in the City are the Mandarin Oriental and the Clift. I'm sure there are other ones that are so luxurious that I haven't even heard of them, and that my favorites are being scoffed at by the über rich the same way I scoff at people who celebrate their anniversary at Red Lobster. But those are two places that have impressed me, because the further down the economic ladder you are, the more you expect when you show up at a four-star restaurant or hotel. I am constantly shocked when I go to these places and find that only 99 of my needs have been met, and that a complimentary G-spot stimulation is not included with the hot towels. Didn't I just pay $17 for a bowl of soup?
So yeah, the Four Seasons is a shithole. The woman at the door was not impeccable, I was only warmly greeted by three staffers when I walked into the main area even though I could clearly see a fourth, and once I went into the bar I didn't feel like I had just emerged in a gilded Munchkinland. It was just a room with comfortable seating and a sort of harlequin-deco-pub vibe.
I chose a table by the window with a lovely view of Wells Fargo and looked at the menu. OK, so it looked pretty good. There were some cheeses listed that I had never heard of. I actually have a vague memory of meeting the chef here at one time, back when I used to party at the Elks Club.
I suppose at this time I should point out that I cannot see the words "Four Seasons" and not get Vivaldi stuck in my head, so that was running between my ears as I ordered a drink. It also seems to be one of those "fair use" songs that anyone can use in commercials to convey pomp and refinement. I'm sure lesser beings see "Four Seasons" and get Frankie Valli stuck in their head instead. Peasants.
Now that I was settled alone at a table by the window I just sort of sat there, like a disgruntled middle-aged doorperson who just holds the damn thing open, with no one entering or exiting. I took some books out of my bag and put them on the table so as to look mildly engaged in a life of leisure.
Two Australian women were sitting near me, obviously on vacation, and they were talking about San Francisco and asking each other questions like, "Is the Mission a good idea for dinner?" or "I wonder if you can take the metro out to the beach," which for a know-it-all like me was a seriously hard conversation to stay out of. Then they brought up Uggs, which are from their homeland and you can get for "five dollars" there but "900" here, according to them as they giggled and drank their lychee martinis. Actually neither of them shut up for five seconds, which is not something I would choose in a travel companion.
The rest of the bar was filled with people who were wealthy but not in a conspicuous way. You can just tell by the fabric of their shirt, or the uniqueness of their shoes, or how nice their hands look. When you don't have to open the door to your hotel, less dirt tends to gather under your nails.
When it became apparent that my G-spot was not going to get stimulated and that a single woman taking up a four-top while others had to stand was probably gauche, I gathered up my stuff and took my leave. Truth be told, I was getting hungry and was not willing to leave full but $75 poorer. Cue Bach Fugue in D Minor.
Ol' girl was still holding the door open, and she peeked around it at me like an old friend at this point. She remembered me. We smiled at each other again, this time with the understanding that I had reached my destination, done my thing, and was now ready to go back to my normal life. Which is probably how she feels at the end of her shift, too.